I Finally Did It!

I'm not really sure where to start with this story, but I think the title says it all.  I finally did it!

This year has been a fantastic year for me both personally and professionally but I have to say that December 1 was by far the highlight.  One would try to figure out how that is possible since it is over a hunting trip but the thing is, it is much more than that.  Hunting has been a part of me since I was a kid because of my Papa, Dean Flaming. In fact, the story has been told to me that when I was just a couple of weeks old he had shot an elk and proceeded to drive straight to my parents house in Phoenix just so he could take a picture with me and the elk.  And there is proof of this...

And from there I was able to be a part of the tradition.

As I grew older I remember many a days sitting it the front seat of his truck as we rolled down the road to one of our fishing holes that we would so often frequent.  I was always fascinated with his hunting stories and we always talked about the day that we could go hunting together and I could shoot an elk of my own.  Unfortunately, that trip never happened for the two of us.

About 15 years ago now I started getting in to hunting myself right before my Papa passed away.  I remember these dove hunts well because he would sit in the back of the truck and laugh and my new found shooting "skills".  That distinct laugh can never be forgotten and it still fills my head from time to time when I accomplish something that I want to share with him.

From there my hunts slowly expanded to other small game and then to big game hunts towards the end of my undergraduate days, where I ran in to Jay.  The two of us were pretty much on the same level in the fact that we both liked to hunt but were not quite sure what we were doing yet.  So each year we started venturing out a little more, helping on hunts, and trying to learn as much as we could.

We still laugh at our experiences on our first big game tag when Jay was able to take a bull elk in 2002.

The proceeding years found me trying to hunt and help as much as I possibly could: elk, deer, antelope, javelina, etc.  Out of all of those it was elk hunting that seemed to just hold a special place in my heart for a handful of reasons.  Beyond the size and majestic antlers they possess, big bull elk remind me of my Papa and a goal that we had set together.  I have had two elk tags in my pocket over the past 15 years and was not able to fill either one of those.  And I know we all experience the feeling of not being able to fill a tag but those two have stuck with me.  So this year with the start of my residency and unsure of my available time off I opted to apply for the late season bull tag in the unit that my family had hunted elk in for so many years. When the the Game and Fish came out with the results this year and I saw that I had drawn my tag I just knew that this year was going to be the year.

As I rolled in to camp on Thanksgiving evening it hit me that we were having a true elk camp this year with Jay and Ron there to help and several of our other friends with their own tags.  With the anticipation of the season we were excited to be seeing plenty of elk at the beginning of the hunt.  We were glassing up some smaller bulls and plenty of cows the first couple of days but as the days wore on it started getting tougher and tougher to find animals. Some of our old honey holds just weren't holding elk this year and the new areas we were exploring we turning up much of the same.  Also with the hunt progressing through the days most of my help had to start getting home to tend to work and families.  The only two of us left on the hunt were myself and my buddy Mark as we searched from sun up to sun down looking for a bull to take home with us.

On the final day of the hunt I found myself glassing from a hillside in an area where we had seen a really nice bull earlier in the week.  As the morning wore one and all I could find were cows my thoughts started wandering to the idea of having to go home with my third unfilled elk tag.  Worried that holding out for a good bull was going to bite me in the ass again this year I was able to snap out of it when I spotted a handful of cows feeding through an opening just underneath my position.  As I watched them and praying that at least a spike was following behind, I caught movement at the bottom of my binos.  When I panned down my heart nearly jumped out of my chest as I saw the top of a set up antlers working through the thick junipers.  As the bull worked towards me he would disappear from time to time in the dense cover and every time he would reappear a sense of relief would get my excitement going again.  I know this episode probably lasted no more than 5 minutes but my recollection of it seems like it took much longer.  All I know is that he finally hit a small opening and a shot from my gun echoed across the valley he was in.  As the bull disappeared I frantically glassed the area looking for his tines racing through the trees but I couldn't find a thing.  After a couple of frantic phone calls to Jay and Ron explaining my situation I decided to drop in to the flats and see if I could find where I had hit the bull and hopefully find some blood.  I never did find the small opening he was in or a drop of blood....but I did find this as I came around a tree.

There are no words that can describe the range of emotions I felt when I walked up on my first bull.  Before I could lay my hands on it I had to make a couple of phone calls to some people that I could share the moment with because something like this could be appreciated alone.

Once I finally did hold on to my first elk I couldn't have been more excited and appreciative for the experience that this animal had provided me.

One of the phone calls I made were to Mark who was able to come meet me and help with the quartering and pack out.  As we started cleaning the animal so did the snow and dumped about 3 or 4 inches on us over the next several hours.  And honestly, it felt great!!

I would like to give thanks to my friends Jay, Ron, Mark and the rest who helped on this hunt and those who have been able to provide assistance and knowledge through the years.  Most importantly I would like to thank my Papa who was the one who planted the seed that has grown in to the passion that I have for hunting.  The harvesting of my first elk turned out to be a very special moment for me that only a few could truly understand.  With my experiences over the years all I could keep thinking to myself in that....I FINALLY DID IT!!


  1. Awesome! Congrats on your well deserved bull Rob!

  2. I can hear his laugh from the heavens! As crazy as we think you are for sitting in the woods for weeks on end I'm proud of your passion and determination. Good work!

  3. Great story Rob!! Way to knock em down!!!
    -Tyler Campbell

  4. That's incredible! Congrats Rob! Papa would be proud!


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